Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prasar Bharati ignored govt concerns on broadcast deal

New Delhi: The V K Shunglu committee report pinned down Prasar Bharati top brass including former CEO B S Lalli for deliberately ignoring the I&B ministry’s concerns and colluding with private broadcast firm SIS Live ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
The report’s observations against SIS Live were denied by the firm though the Shunglu panel said significant changes were made in the contract relating to liquidation damages and sub-contracting without the ministry’s approval.
The report said advance payment to SIS Live was hiked from 30% to 60% days before the Games despite the ministry’s reservations. It has charged Lalli and Doordarshan director general Aruna Sharma for causing a loss of Rs 135 crore. The report gives credence to I&B ministry’s misgivings about the broadcast deal awarded to the UK broadcaster. SIS Live’s clout with Prasar Bharati is evident in the major deviations that took place in the draft contract between October 2010 and March 2011. This was in violation of Central Vigilance Commission norms.
The changes agreed to by Prasar Bharati included changes in terms of payments, performance guarantee, liquidated damages and duties and liabilities of Prasar Bharati and SIS Live as well as sub-contracting. Some of these demands were made by other entities shortlisted but were summarily rejected by Prasar Bharati.
The report said, “Most of these changes were heavily loaded against the interests of Prasar Bharati and diluted the liabilities and obligations of SIS Live.” This was done despite I&B ministry pointing out amendments to the contract would leave the field open for legal intervention by other parties who had lost the bid.
The committee found the public broadcaster ignored the ministry’s advice to conduct price comparisons and verification of services and was willing to pay exorbitant rates for production and coverage of the Games. All this was compounded by procedural delays.

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